Heard on the Hill

D.C. Eatery Serves Pizza With a Side of Female Democrats for Congress

Pizza Paradiso has pizzas for Ortiz Jones, Ocasio-Cortez, Underwood and Sinema

Drew McCormick, left, and Ruth Gresser, right, researched Democratic female candidates who would be “firsts.” (Thomas McKinless/ CQ Roll Call)

Forget eating pizza. These politicians are becoming it.

At least that’s the vision of chef Ruth Gresser, who owns Pizzeria Paradiso in D.C. She’s celebrating a handful of female candidates this cycle with a mozzarella salute, complete with a beer pairing.

All of them are Democrats, and all of them would be a “first” of some kind if they end up winning.

“There was some struggle with at least most of these women,” Gresser said. “I think that struck me, with the year that women have been through.”

Democrat Gina Ortiz Jones has an uphill climb in Texas, but if she unseats Republican Rep. Will Hurd, she would be the first Filipina-American and the state’s first lesbian in Congress.

Her pizza is topped with chile sauce, chile braised beef, cheddar cheese, avocado and spices and paired with a honey cider from Austin Eastciders.

Year of the Pizza: DC Restaurant Has Special Pizza Recipes Saluting Women Candidates

Gresser enlisted the help of her beer director, Drew McCormick, to set the pairings.

“It’s flavor and state of origin and women running for Congress. It’s a lot of things all together,” McCormick said.

They focused on candidates who defy expectations, break barriers, and hail from a state with good beer. This year, that meant Democrats.

“Women are all over the ballot, but we were focusing mostly on the national level or the national stage,” Gresser said. 

Since the project launched on Oct. 3, no one has asked them where the pizzas named after Republicans are. And no candidate has stopped by for a sample — at least not yet. 

The first pie was a tribute to Stacey Abrams, who would be the first black female governor if she wins her bid in Georgia. 

The latest pizza, which will be served from Oct. 17 to Oct. 23, honors New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who could soon be the youngest woman in Congress. She beat Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in the primary and is favored to trounce Republican Anthony Pappas on Election Day.

Hers is New York style pizza, so the restaurant’s typical thick crust is stretched out thin, and topped with sauce, oregano and mozzarella. A Brooklyn Brewery lager completes the pairing.

Next in line is Lauren Underwood, a Democrat challenging Rep. Randy Hultgren in the Prairie State. 

Making an Illinois pizza that wasn’t deep dish was a tough one for Gresser. She decided to put a hot dog on it, along with onion sauce and relish. That pizza will be available from Oct. 24 to Oct. 30 and is paired with a Berliner Weisse from Off Color Brewing. 

Underwood would be the first black woman to represent her district. She’s not expected to win.

The idea for the project came about because Gresser and McCormick, both women, wanted to recognize a monumental year while lightening the mood.

“In this year where topics surrounding women have been at the forefront of at least a lot of women’s minds, we thought we would … do a project, have some fun around the elections, because things get really serious at times,” Gresser said.

A portion of the pizza proceeds will go to the League of Women Voters. Gresser’s mother was involved with the league, and she said politics has always been important to her.

As for McCormick, she’s seen her taste for politics rise in recent months.

“[I’ve been] politically active in the past, but [I’m] definitely feeling a little more driven to be vocal — not just educating myself, but trying to engage with other people,” she said. “Pizza and beer is sort of a no-brainer platform to at least start talking about it.”

A tribute to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the final pizza slated for the special menu. She’s running neck-and-neck with Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the race to succeed Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake

Her pizza features hominy, pork, chiles, cabbage and queso and is paired with a beer from Stillwater Artisanal and Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company.

If Sinema wins, she’ll be the first bisexual senator.

What would Pizzeria Paradiso put on a D.C.-themed pie for a project like this?

“Mumbo sauce?” McCormick said.

“Chicken wings?” Gresser said.

She added, “I have to think about that.”

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